Saturday, July 23, 2011

Summer Cornbread: Fresh Corn, Browned Butter, Basil & a Peach

If you're anything like me, you enjoy a fat wedge of hearty cornbread alongside your favorite winter soup. It's even better drizzled with honey. Growing up in the wilds of Minnesota gave me insight into the cornbread experience, and it wasn't all good. Cornbread can, in fact, be awful: so gloppily thick that it's even difficult to improve with quantities of honey.

It's taken some time to perfect my cornbread recipe. My standard fare is rich with browned butter and textured with corn, usually of the frozen variety because I make it in winter. But I decided — due to the leftover cobs frowning at me from the depths of the fridge — to try creating a summer staple. (No worries, I kept the browned butter aspect.)

Fluffy and moist, this bread pairs well with a fresh salad and, as always, honey. It barely clings together and offers an intense corn-centered experience with fresh corn, cornmeal and corn flour. The peaches nearly dissolve if chopped finely, creating a hint of sweetness on the tongue, fragrant with basil. It's not a fast recipe, though it bakes up quickly enough once you're organized, but it's a nice changeup from the usual sweet corn recipes and it smacks of summer. If you love cornbread, don't miss this delicious version!

Summer Cornbread
Makes 8 wedges or one castiron skillet's worth

1/2 cup unsalted butter

2 cobs of corn, husked, kernels sliced off the cob (about 1 cup or so)
1 large peach, peeled and diced
1/4 cup basil, chopped (I used sweet purple but green is just as nice)

3/4 cup AP flour
1/4 cup corn flour (or another 1/4 cup AP)
1 cup cornmeal
3/4 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp baking powder
3 T sugar

1 cup soymilk + 1 tsp cider vinegar (or 1 cup milk)
1 egg

Note: If you have a castiron skillet, I highly recommend you use it here for both browning your butter and baking the cornbread. If not, use a saucepan for making the browned butter and an 8"x8" baker or deep dish pie plate for the cornbread. I'm going to proceed as if you own a castiron skillet.

Does your browned butter look like this? A little caramelly in color means yummy flavor.

Preheat your oven to 425ยบ and set your skillet on the stove over medium-high heat with the stick of butter inside. It will melt as the skillet heats up. You're looking for the foaming part of the butter solids to brown and fall to the bottom of the pan, where they'll start to smell really nice for you. When this happens, take the skillet off the heat, swirl the pan to coat the sides a bit — this is for when the bread starts baking – and then pour the butter off into a glass or ceramic bowl to cool. (If this is your first time making browned butter, keep an eye on it the whole time. Once it starts to brown, the process goes quickly from browned to burnt.)

Dry ingredients mixed together with corn, peaches & basil

Measure the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl and swirl together well with a spatula. Prep your corn, peach and basil on a cutting board and then toss them into the dry ingredients. Mix lightly, until everything is coated with the flour mixture.

And into the oven you go!

Pour the soy (or milk) into a separate bowl and add in the egg. Whisk to combine and add in the slightly cooled browned butter. Pour over the dry ingredients and fold gently with the spatula, just until no clumps of dry flour remain. Smooth batter into the warm skillet and bake for 20-25 minutes. The top should be puffed, dry and golden brown, and the edges around the pan should be browned and crisp where we left that nice ring of butter.

The longer it cools, the better the slices will hold their shape. I can manage to wait about 10 minutes, however, so my first slice is more of a pudding. Mmm, corn pudding.

Ready to go outside and eat on the patio...

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